Unified communications (UC) helps businesses of all types and sizes improve their collaboration and productivity while removing the hassles and reducing the costs associated with managing voice and data communications. At least, that’s the promise of UC. But is that promise being realized?
The most successful implementations of UC are hosted, cloud-based, mobile and run over an easy-to-manage, advanced voice platform that is scalable and has the ability to integrate enterprise applications. Not all approaches to UC are equal, and neither are all UC providers. Here are five things businesses should look for in a UC provider to help ensure the potential of UC is fully realized.
Does the Provider Offer UC as a Service?
For many businesses, UC works best when it’s provided as a service (UCaaS) instead of a premise-based solution. A cloud-based UC service is easier to maintain. Updates happen automatically. Plus, it’s easier, quicker and less expensive to scale up and down as business needs dictate. There’s no need to deploy a physical solution for peak utilization, only to have cards go unused when demand goes down. There’s also no need to divert costly IT engineers from revenue-generating activities because all maintenance, updates, adds and changes are handled in the cloud by the service provider.
Can the Provider Support Remote Locations?
UC isn’t truly unified unless it supports all of a business’s physical locations and remote workers. Multiple locations often require a mix of UC solutions — a perfect scenario for cloud-based UCaaS, because services can be rolled out on a location-by-location basis. The combination of a private, secure, nationwide network infrastructure — including the last mile — and mobile access is key. Make sure the provider offers a single point of contact for all locations to facilitate troubleshooting and ensure the provider always has the bigger picture.
Is the User Interface Easy to Manage?
The goal of UC is to make businesses more productive, but if users can’t figure out how to make it work, those productivity gains won’t happen. Look for a service provider that offers a single user interface (and single admin interface) for both data/internet and voice, no matter the type of desktop or mobile device used. The interface should be intuitive and provide one-click integration with common tools like Microsoft Skype for Business, Office 365 and Google Chrome so users don’t have to toggle between applications. Selecting a provider that will offer user and admin training is a big plus when it comes to getting up to speed quickly with new UC tools.
What is the Quality of Service?
When VoIP is delivered over the public internet as with Over the Top (OTT) providers, voice and data compete for bandwidth, leading to packet loss jitter, dropped calls and poor voice quality. A dedicated, carrier-grade voice connection eliminates those problems, so voice communications remain clear and reliable. Businesses should also make sure their provider offers a redundant network architecture, which keeps communications running in the event of a natural or man-made disaster that impacts the network. Around-the-clock network and customer monitoring, as well as service level agreements, will provide extra peace of mind.
How Stable is the Provider?
It seems like everyone is getting into the VoIP and UC game these days. Although providers can be found around every turn, businesses would be well-served to select a UC partner that is financially strong, growing and committed to continuous investment in its network infrastructure. A provider dedicated to offering services and support that meet the special needs of various business segments will be in the best position to offer the right solution at competitive prices.When it comes to selecting a UC provider, size and strength matter. Businesses can ensure a future path to greater collaboration and productivity by choosing a hosted, cloud-based, advanced voice system that is run and managed over a private, secure, nationwide network.